Tangled Branches: Cultivated
happenings in and around my zone 6b gardens in northern Virginia and in central Virginia
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
I received my order from Chiltern Seeds this week. Everything I ordered was in the envelope, and I'm grateful for that after reading that the US Customs Service is very busy protecting us from dangerous tomato seeds. I didn't order any tomato seeds, BTW. I'm expecting some lovely plants in a few months from these seeds, but I'm getting my kicks right now reading the Chiltern catalog. Not quite as funny as Plant Delights, but more clever I think, and educational too - sprinkled here and there are explanations of the plants' Latin names.
Here's a random sample:
- Cyclamen coum (=of Cos, the Greek Island better known for its lettuce, but don't go looking for this Cyclamen there - although found over an enormous area around the eastern Mediterranean, it's apparently not actually found there)...
- Erigeron compositus (=compound) 'Rocky'. A gardener's life would be far easier if only there were more plants like this one. Sown in March, it will flower profusely from the end of July onwards until late autumn. Thereafter - it's a long-lived perennial - it starts flowering in early spring to carry on as before. And the flower? With credentials like that, does it really matter?...
- Mirabilis viscosa. From South America comes this interesting plant with strong stems with hairy, fleshy, pointed, heart-shaped leaves and bearing racemes of funnel-shaped, purple, pink, red or white flowers. These have a little party trick for your amusement: when the seeds are ripe, the calyx turns brown, enlarges, and is suspended over them like a small umbrella.
See? Fun. And not a single photograph, except for the front and back covers. They have a separate vegetable catalog, which is illustrated, but with humorous drawings, including one that I can only assume is Sybil Fawlty screeching at Basil.
Friday, January 26, 2007
Mealybugs, Aphids & Scale. Oh My.
I thought I was doing a good deed. Saving the plants in the garage from a frozen death by bringing them into the house where they could warm up and maybe put out a few new leaves for the spring. And how do they reward me? They make it harder to justify keeping them. The few etiolated shoots on the Cupheas are now infested with aphids. The florists' azaleas have scale. The Kaffir Lime has scale and mealybugs. All this within 48 hours of bringing them in and cleaning them up a bit. The scale and mealybugs I know I can deal with - it just takes some time with Q-tips and isopropyl alcohol to remove them. But aphids? Be a good organic gardener and simply wash them away with a spray of water! Ha! They always come back, refreshed from their shower. (If not the very same ones, then their children.) But I really want to keep the Cupheas, so I perservere.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
So Much to Sow
Well, I decided to get down to the business of ordering seeds, and then thought it might be a good idea to see what I already had on hand. So I spent an hour (!) going through all the packets I could find stashed in various places, and recording them in a spreadsheet. I did the spreadsheet so I could sort and find things again, but when I sorted by genus and species I learned what my favorite plant is. Basil. Specifically, Cinnamon Basil. I have remnants of 4 packets of Cinnamon Basil, out of a total of 12 remnant packets of Basil seed. The only one of the 12 that I didn't like, wouldn't grow again, and tossed in the trash was 'Siam Queen'. I didn't like the compact plant habit and I didn't like the flavor. I do like Thai basil, but just not that one. My other personal favorite plants apparently are Morning Glories (6 packets), Tomatoes (5 packets) and Cosmos (5 packets). The Morning Glory statistic is misleading though, because 3 of them are minute quantities of seed I bought on eBay a couple of years ago. And one of the other ones is unopened. 'Grandpa Ott's' looks just like the 'Star of Yelta' that comes up every year by itself, so why plant more? The oldest seed (on which I could find a date) was from 1999, and that was a packet of, um, Cinnamon Basil.
Has anybody reading this (in the US) ever ordered online from Chiltern in England? I was looking for a new source for 'Giants of California' Petunias, and I noticed that they have it. A bit pricey, but it's a plant I really like and neither Burpee nor Select Seeds has it this year. I also found it at Crosman's Seeds, which I have not heard of before and their web site doesn't inspire confidence.
I'm thinking of trying some winter sowing this year. I'd never heard of this technique until reading about it at Cincinnati Cape Cod last year, but it sounds like an economical way to start a lot of plants. Next step in the seed spreadsheet is to mark which ones might be suitable for winter sowing.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Down at the CeVA house, we're attacking the greenbriar in the woods. It's had the run of the place for some time now, but we'd like to walk through the woods without wearing a snowmobile suit. Not that we have a snowmobile suit anyway. This picture is actually a before AND after picture. We've been chopping away at this for a while and this is the last big entanglement left in back of the house. And it's not just the greenbriar that we have to clear away - it ensnares lots of dead branches too, as you can see here. After we get this group cleared, we'll start on the woods in front of the house.
I thought I knew all about greenbriar, but I noticed that some of the stems I was cutting were different - very prickly and black (blackbriar?). Seems I've got 2 species - Smilax rotundifolia, which is most of it, and just a few Smilax tamnoides. And I never knew that Sasparilla was made from a Smilax. Or maybe not - depends on who you ask.
Winter After All
Today was what I used to think of as a good winter day - cold (above freezing during daylight), sunny!, not windy, no precipitation in the air or on the ground. But now, after the uncommonly warm weather we've had so far this "winter", it feels darned cold. Sooooo.....I think these are probably the last pictures of spring flowers for a while. These were taken Monday, and all the flowers held up very well during the first cold night. But...it's supposed to be much colder tonight, and maybe a little bit of rain/sleet/snow for tomorrow. We're not expecting anything at all like what's been happening in Texas (and elsewhere) - sad to read the accounts of ice damage, but look at some of the beautiful pictures it makes:
Monday, January 08, 2007
Meeting the Neighbors
Four of our new neighbors stopped by for breakfast yesterday. I took a couple of pictures (1, 2) to share with everybody.
Have I mentioned that they're vegetarians? So hard to think of a menu that will please everybody...
Friday, January 05, 2007
Would you believe even more spring flowers are out? They may a little mud-splattered after today's rain, but I think there will be even more soon. We're expecting close to record high temperatures tomorrow (70ish). Then back to reality for next week. In the meantime, look what's in bloom.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Starting the new year off right, I'm late to my own Snowdrop Watch. They were showing color on December 29, and by January 2 they were blooming. This is the same clump that bloomed last year around January 22, and in 2005, around January 13.